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The USB port as we knew it is growing old. Every Thursday it nips down to the Post Office to collect its pension and chat to its fellow retirees, PS/2 and parallel. And who does it see outside but that rapscallion USB-C port, with its weird talk of memes and Love Island.
Which is my long-winded way of saying that modern laptops all include USB-C ports these days, with the USB Type-A port that dominated for a decade rapidly becoming a thing of the past.
The trouble is that so many laptops focus on slimness and modernity at the expense of connections. For instance, the excellent Dell XPS 13 includes two Thunderbolt and one USB-C port, but no old-style Type-A USB ports.
The obvious corollary is that fleet-footed companies are bringing out USB-C hubs, which convert a single USB-C port into a pantheon of legacy and forward-thinking ports. The latest, and arguably best, is from Kingston.
Kingston Nucleum review: Ports in the storm
In this case, it includes two Type-A USB 3.1 ports, a power passthrough, a further USB-C port and a full-size HDMI port. Not to mention handy microSD and full-size SD slots. Considering that it’s is the size of a dictaphone (remember them?), and that all those ports can be used simultaneously, that’s quite an achievement.
This means the Nucleum is compact enough to sling in a bag if you’re travelling, and at 105g it won’t be a burden. The only thing I don’t like about its design is that the cable doesn’t stow away anywhere, although it will bend round during travel before springing back into position. (This is an impressively tough-looking cable.)
If you’re planning on this sitting atop your desk all the time, that the lack of weight then counts against it. It will be buffeted around by whatever you plug into its sides; I prefer something a bit more solid.
Don’t get the idea that the Kingston Nuceleum is plasticky, though. Its brushed metal finish is designed to echo the MacBook, and even staunch Apple fans wouldn’t feel ashamed to pull this out of their bag.
Kingston Nucleum review: Performance testing
To test performance, I plugged a super-fast HyperX Savage USB 3.1 drive into the side of a super-fast HP ZBook mobile workstation. This includes a USB 3.0 port rather than USB 3.1, so theoretically that should hold it back. In reality, few devices can take advantage of USB 3.1’s 10Mbits/sec transfer rates, compared to 5Mbits/sec for USB 3.0, so I wasn’t expecting to see a difference.
My test was a simple one: transfer a 6.5GB video file directly via the laptop’s USB 3.0 port and then over the USB 3.1 port on the Nucleum. The results? Predictably similar: the 6.5GB video transferred from the flash drive to the desktop in seven seconds on both occasions, and wrote back the other way in 39 seconds.
In short, the Nucleum’s USB 3.1 port is just as fast as a native USB 3.0 port. Probably faster, but even the fastest USB drive I could find can’t take advantage.
Kingston Nucleum review: One small caveat
Kingston is rightly proud of the full-size HDMI port built into the Nucleum, but note it supports HDMI 1.4 not HDMI 2. That means it can output to 4K screens, but only at 24Hz. It’s also limited to 8-bit colour, not 10-bit or 12-bit.
Neither of these restrictions are killer problems for most people, but as technology advances you’ll probably want HDMI 2 (and its successors) over HDMI 1.4.
Kingston Nucleum review: Verdict
The Nucleum is expensive at £60 compared to the plethora of no-name USB-C hubs, but this is a case of paying what you get. Reading through the Amazon reviews on this device, a repeated theme is that people have bought cheaper USB-C hubs but hit heat and reliability issues. Not so with the Nucleum.
Whilst your gritting you teeth at the cost, bear in mind it should easily last for the life of your laptop. Plus it’s so light that you can sling it permanently into your bag. All things considered, it’s a deserving winner of The Big Tech Question’s new Buy Now award.
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Kingston Nucleum verdict
A stylish and compact 7-in-1 USB-C hub that makes the perfect travelling partner for modern laptops